This "special edition" of Sunday Brunch covers one of my long-time favorite dining spots…The Mark Dine and Tap, in South Bend, Indiana! I spent my weekend visiting my beloved alma mater for a jam-packed three days of football, friends, and (most importantly?) food. My best friend Kaitlin flew in from Baltimore to meet Jon, myself and our friend Michael, and we stayed with Laura, my long-time "life coach" (and role model in all things, basically).
Laura's a South Bend local who works for Notre Dame in a business capacity now, and whenever we go visit ND we're lucky enough to stay with her and her lovely standard poodle, Fiona. To cap off our weekends, we generally hit up The Mark, in Eddy Street (a shopping-and-dining "district" right across from campus) on Sunday before we leave. Known for its fresh, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and awesome desserts in particular, I've been visiting The Mark since it opened senior year and a weekend in the Bend wouldn't be half as sweet without a stop!
Onto the rankings:
-Location/Ambiance: The Mark, as I mentioned, is located directly off campus in a sort of strip mall of student and visitor attractions including, but not limited to, a satellite campus bookstore, a Chipotle and a 7-11. One might think that initially detracts from the ambiance, but for convenience and proximity to campus, the location can't be beat. It was easily walkable from my dorm senior year, and from Laura's great near-campus location these days. The ambiance inside is chic and cozy, with lots of plum purple and warm gold, and a huge stone-and-wood bar with soaring ceilings. Its warm, welcoming atmosphere earns big points from me.
-Beverages: I can't say I tried a mimosa or other breakfast libation here, since we hit up my favorite college bar, The Backer (ahhhhhhh!) pretty hard the night before and alcohol in any form sounded pretty repulsive. That said, The Mark earns top marks (pun definitely intended) for its amazing coffee. Could just be the residual hangover talking, but their coffee was hot, fresh and smooth, and kept coming steadily throughout our meal despite the insanely busy restaurant. We also sampled their fresh-pressed orange juice, which combined mandarins, clementines and regular oranges into a pulpy, sweet, tart pint glass of sunshine-in-the-mouth flavor. I did note that, while the restaurant offered both mimosas and Kir Royales, neither were bottomless.
-Food: One of the things I love most about Laura is that she is a big fan of trying new things. Namely, trying as many things as possible on the breakfast menu by splitting two items. We decided to split the seasonal offering of pumpkin pancakes, as well as the "Crunchy French Toast," a concoction of challah bread dipped in egg whites and rolled/baked in a Cinnamon Toast Crunch shell. The pumpkin pancakes were just the right amount of pumpkin-y and deliciously fluffy; adding maple syrup and smearing them with the house-made whipped cream took everything to the next level. The Crunchy French Toast was, on first bite, a revelation…sweet, cinnamon-laden and, as promised, crunchy, sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with fresh strawberries. Midway through, however, it started to taste like State Fair food…a little doughy, a lot fatty and a bit excessive. Toward the end, the strawberries were really necessary to cut the fried-dough flavor. That said, however, what a sinful breakfast treat.
All said and done, The Mark was an awesome way to cap off our weekend back on campus. To take a peek for yourself, visit http://themarkdineandtap.com. For the more local bunch among here, check out my Minneapolis brunch challenge for similarly tantalizing options!